Conceptualised as a curatorial collaboration between the Tate Modern and Khoj, Word. Sound. Power. opens at Project Space Gallery at Tate Modern, London from July 12, 2013 till November 3, 2013 and will travel to Khoj Studios from January 2014 till February 2014. The exhibition is jointly curated by Khoj’s resident curator Andi-Asmita Rangari and Tate’s Loren Hansi Momudu and brings together eight international artists, including new and specially commissioned works. The artists whose works will be on view include Jordanian artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, French-Norwegian artist Caroline Bergvall, Danish artist Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen and five Indian artists including Amar Kanwar, Mithu Sen, Anjali Monteiro & K. P. Jayasankar and Pallavi Paul.

From a single utterance, to the pronunciation of a name and the declaration of an idea, the voice is a tool through which we assert our presence in the world. The use of the voice as a means of protest and as a metaphor for self-representation is central to this exhibition. “Word. Sound. Power. is about the poetics and politics of voice. It is about the formation of an utterance in relation to the norm, and how, in the process, a voice raised can also be understood as an act of poesies, a creative and aesthetic process that incorporates critique. A particular concern that runs through its themes is to interrogate the inherent privilege in being allowed to voice dissent, reflected in cultural echoes—through art, music and poetry”, says Khoj’s curator Andi-Asmita Rangari. By bringing together a range of artists working across different creative disciplines, including audio documentary, video, performance, text and sound, this exhibition takes a moment to listen to the harmony, and dissonance, of voices rising.

Developed through the continued curatorial exchange between places, artist Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen presents a newly commissioned work in two parts, Arise & KEST (Keep Evans Safe Today) 2013. United in their passion for hip-hop and hopes for a better future, the films subtly weaves the aspirations of four youths across their geographical locations neighbouring Tate, London and Khoj, New Delhi. In this gesture, there is a desire to hear the voices that surround us and attune to a generation who, continents apart, negotiate their position and find ways to be heard.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s ongoing research project draws our attention to the legislation of the voice and the politics of listening. His audio documentary The Whole Truth, 2012 and set of voice maps entitled Conflicted Phonemes, 2012, act to subtly undermine the complex analysis of the voice supporting current immigration policies and question the possibility of spontaneity and uniqueness of voice.

Using both text and sound Caroline Bergvall’s work often inhabits liminal spaces between the practices of visual art and poetry, amidst multiple languages, and as presented in this exhibition, at the threshold of physical spaces. Voice 2007 emanates directly through the Project Space Gallery’s atrium window that is transformed into a speaker, recalling varied and familiar experiences of the human voice and acting as an aural subtitle for the exhibition. In Crop 2010, the artist combines text and sound to focus on the relationship between language and the body, here she likens the power we have over the languages we speak to the power we hold over our own bodies. In this plurilingual piece, languages are ‘disappeared’, as bodies are.

In her new work I Am a Poet 2013, Mithu Sen reclaims her ownership of language by levelling the playing field in a world dominated by the English language. Reading from a book of asemic text, Sen makes public performances which invite visitors to record their own readings from the text, throwing into focus the void between utterance and meaning.  An acclaimed poet in her native language of Bengali, Sen has experienced a sense of disconnection with language since relocating to the largely Anglophone city of Delhi. In this work she invites us to share in a language that mutually excludes and therefore includes us all.

An early work by radical filmmaker Amar Kanwar, A Night of Prophecy, 2002, allows us to witness the momentum with which the turmoil of political oppression or injustice is articulated through the music, poetry and songs across India. Kanwar himself asks, “if different poetic narratives could merge together, allowing us to see a more universal language of symbols and meanings… would there be a moment of prophecy?”

Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar’s work features excerpts taken from their documentary film Saacha (The Loom) 2001. The selected excerpts highlight the poetry of the critically acclaimed Dalit poet Narayan Surve, as he recounts personal memories of the city of Mumbai, the birth place of the Indian textile industry and the industrial working class. Both political activist and poet, Surve was at the forefront of the left wing cultural movement in the city and his poetry provided an alternative mode of political representation.

Films titled Nayi Kheti 2013 and Shabdkosh 2013 by Pallavi Paul bring together poetry, notions of time travel and the possibilities of metaphysical conversations between the ghosts of poets living throughout different epochs of history. Located as a witness to these exchanges are the poems of Vidrohi, a vagabond political poet, based in New Delhi. Paul creates a lucid, dreamlike sequence of found, fictional and documentary images, positing words as keepers of legacy, record and knowledge production.

As a parallel event to the exhibition, Anand Patwardhan’s film Jai Bhim Comrade 2012 will also be screened at the Tate Modern on July 15, 2013. The film is part of a larger retrospective – A Cinema of Songs and People: The Films of Anand Patwardhan – that has been organised in collaboration with The Otolith Collective.

Tate Modern, Project Space…


TAGS , , , , , , , , , , , ,